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Following significant engagement with grassroots women-led organisations across East Africa from 2020 through a grant awarded as part of the Call to Action on Protection from GBV in Emergencies, a Feminist Vision for ending child marriage in Eastern Africa was published at the beginning of 2023. This measurable and actionable five-year plan, with 5 key outcomes, aims to meet the need for enhanced collaboration with, and leadership of, place-based feminist and women’s rights organisations in addressing child marriage both in contexts of international development and humanitarian action across the region.

In this panel discussion, experts from sub-Saharan Africa will discuss the nature and role of place-based and grassroots women-led leadership in addressing child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence across the African continent. Specific attention will be given to the ways that we can invest in this leadership, enabling it to flourish at local, national and even global levels.

Panellists will share their extensive experience of enacting, supporting and enhancing grassroots women-led leadership. Closing remarks will be given by young African women who are potential leaders of the future, as they reflect on what these discussions mean for them and their futures.



Welcome and introduction – Dr Aisha Hutchinson (King’s College London)

Chair – Dr Julianne Deitch (Women’s Refugee Commission)

Dr Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda (Rozaria Memorial Trust)
Mr Naver Chayelela (Pan African Alliance to End Child Marriage)
Mundia Situmbeko (Girls Not Brides Africa Team)
Catherine Vitaliano (Africa Leadership Centre)

Closing remarks
Loveness Mudzuru (Rozaria Memorial Trust)
Lucy Mabhikwa (Africa Leadership Centre)

Speaker biographies

Dr Aisha Hutchinson: Senior Lecturer, King’s College London

Dr Aisha Hutchinson is an applied social scientist with significant practice, research and academic experience. Since completing her PhD on the coping strategies of young women in Mozambique in response to unintended pregnancies she has been involved in several pieces of research aiming to improve the lives of adolescent girls in contexts of humanitarian action, with a specific focus on child marriage.

Theoretically, Aisha is interested in expressions and negotiations of agency by girls and their families in difficult situations and the role of organisations in empowering and supporting communities in crisis using critical perspectives. Aisha's research has involved partnerships with a number of academic and third sector organisations in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Switzerland, Jordan, Lebanon and Australia.

Her research informs her teaching on international child protection. Aisha is also a qualified social worker with seven years of practice experience in the UK.

Dr Julianne Deitch: Senior Advisor, Women’s Refugee Commission

Dr Julianne Deitch is a global health practitioner with 15 years of experience leading research, programming, and policy that aims to promote the unique needs and priorities of women and girls affected by conflict and displacement. As a Senior Advisor with Women’s Refugee Commission, Julianne focuses on engaging adolescents in programme design and implementation and collecting meaningful evidence to inform integrated service delivery in multiple humanitarian settings.

Prior to joining WRC, Julianne worked with the RAISE Initiative at Columbia University, supporting research and programming on family planning and post-abortion care, and with the UNICEF Data and Analytics Team, where she created guidelines for MICS data analysis and reporting on adolescent health and well-being. Julianne began her career in global health with the UN Secretariat in Ethiopia and Lebanon, where she focused on supporting policy research on health and gender equality.

Julianne’s work experience is complemented by her academic qualifications. Her Doctoral dissertation used primary and secondary mixed-methods data to understand determinants of adolescent pregnancy and demand for contraception in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Dr Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda: Chief Executive, Rozaria Memorial Trust

Dr Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is a Zimbabwean national and a trained human rights lawyer with extensive experience of working with girls and young women, as well as in conflict resolution and mediation. For almost 30 years, she has worked on issues of women and children's human rights, especially violence against women, health and HIV/AIDS.

She is the Chief Executive for Rozaria Memorial Trust, a Zimbabwe organisation of 10 years of experience that supports innovative approaches to health and education in communities, especially in resource poor communities.

She was the African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage from 2014-2022 and has led groundbreaking work on engaging with and transforming traditional institutions for the protection of rights of children in the effort to end child marriage. She has extensive experience working with governments, providing advice and technical support related to mainstreaming gender equality in development, peace processes and humanitarian interventions. Until May 2016, she was the General Secretary of the World YWCA, a global organisation present in 120 countries and with a reach to over 25 million women and girls in 22,000 communities.

She possesses diverse skills and experience of engagement with civil society in communities, building their capacities to deliver quality services and engage in evidence-based advocacy.

Naver Chayelela: General Secretary, Pan African Alliance to End Child Marriage

Naver Chayelela is from Zambia. He is the General Secretary of the Pan African Alliance On Ending Child Marriage (PAAECM). Naver is also the Executive Director of Madzimawe Foundation, a community-based organisation which works with traditional leaders and rural communities to end child marriage in Zambia.

Naver has a BA in Economics/Demography, Postgraduate Diplomas in Statistics, Gender Statistics, Statistical Analysis and Computing (R and Python Programming), Monitoring and Evaluation, Communication and Change Management, and PRINCE2 Project Management Certification. He possesses more than 15 years' work experience in management of projects and conducting both quantitative and qualitative research.

Mundia Situmbeko: Girls Not Brides Africa Team

Mundia Situmbeko specialises in gender issues with an Africa focus; she has worked at grassroots and national levels to address harmful practices and has led the implementation of comprehensive refugee resettlement programmes. She has conducted research and has been part of the development of social and gender indices with the UN to support governments in shaping their national policies to achieve gender equity.

Her most current work focuses on tackling child marriage through education/cross sectoral partnerships and meaningful youth engagement in Francophone West Africa as well as the strengthening of national legal frameworks using regional model laws in Southern Africa.

Lucy Mabhikwa: Women in Peace and Security Fellow, African Leadership Centre (King's)

Lucy Mabhikwa is a development practitioner and gender activist. She holds a Social Science Honours Degree in Development Studies and a Master's Degree in Public Policy and Development Management from the University of Lupane State, Zimbabwe.

Lucy has been advocating for the empowerment of the girl child and working towards uplifting the status quo of women since her tender age. When she was a high school student, Lucy became a member of the junior parliament of Zimbabwe, contributing to the initiative’s works towards the representation of children in policy dialogue and policy implementation. In 2014 she worked as a graduate intern at the Bulawayo City Council.

The rights of women and sustainable development are particularly close to her heart and are set to further influence her work in the future. Lucy’s research interests are gender, community development, inclusive governance and peace building. She is a Women in Peace and Security Fellow at the African Leadership Centre and King's College London, as well as a Programmes Assistant with the UN Women department of Women's Political Participation and Leadership.

Catherine Vitaliano: Peace, Security and Development Fellow, African Leadership Centre (King's)

Catherine Vitaliano is currently based at the African Leadership Centre at King's College London, as a Peace, Security and Development Fellow. Her research interests lie on governance and peacebuilding in South Sudan, and the potential impact of this crisis on refugees and displaced people, particularly women and children.

Loveness Mudzuru: Programmes and Research Associate, Rozaria Memorial Trust

Loveness is a Social Worker and holds a Diploma in Social Work from Women University in Zimbabwe. She started working at Rozaria Memorial Trust in Zimbabwe as a Programs and Research Associate after 7 years of being a young volunteer. She is the lead focal point on research on the multi-partner project ‘Child Marriage in Humanitarian Settings in East Africa’ with partners from King’s College London and the Women’s Refugee Commission - among other research she is undertaking within the organisation. Her other responsibilities include conducting research, resource mobilising and fundraising. She has represented Rozaria Memorial Trust as a volunteer and as member at the African Union Summit in 2016 and 2017 on lobbying and advocating for ending child marriage. She also participated at Women Deliver 2016 influencing key decision-makers and influential stakeholders on child marriage and women’s rights.

Loveness’ strengths lie in public speaking, facilitation, moderating and research. Notably, she has addressed child marriage through winning a case in the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe in 2016, with a judgment declaring 18 years as the legal minimum age of marriage and therefore all forms of child marriage were with immediate effect deemed unconstitutional.

At this event

Aisha Hutchinson1996

Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences